Holiday anywhere south of Florida in the USA, and you’ll be amazed at how many plants which are “tender” and incapable of living through even a threat of a British frost, are growing to unimaginable heights.
It’s a wonderful sight but a bit of a heartbreaking experience. Bring such plants back to Blighty (if HM Customs lets you) and you’ll spend the rest of your life just fighting to keep them alive.
Take crotons, for example. As opposed to the small bits of toast you dunk in soup, Codiaeum variegatum are lovely colourful plants; indeed, they are often called “Joseph’s coat of many colours”, and in Britain they are very popular as indoor, container-grown specimens.
But they are plants of the sub-tropics, of the far south of the USA and onwards into Central and South America where the flourish in the warmth. So much so that they are often grown as hedging.
If you want to replicate a similar hedge here in darkest Yorkshire, it will have to be done in a conservatory.
So if you like the croton so much, and you feel you really have to grow one or more, then choose your colours - anything from green, variegated, yellow, red, orange, cream, pink and black to a combination of all.
Like many houseplants, caring for a croton involves proper watering and humidity. Because it is a tropical plant, it likes high humidity, so pop its container on a tray of damp pebbles and mist the foliage regularly with warmish water (not our chlorinated tap water).
Crotons should be watered only when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Then give them a good soak. Don’t allow the soil to remain very wet or you’ll be encouraging all sorts of nasty and damaging infections.
Keep plants out of cold draughts, and make sure the air temperature never falls below 60F or your croton(s) will start to shed leaves. As for light… the more variegated the variety of croton, the more light it needs to keep its foliage in fine fettle, especially in the winter months.